We have been living with COVID-19 for over a year. While there is a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, we haven’t reached it yet. More than 30 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus, and the number of people getting infected each day is rising again. Experts are concerned about a new surge.
With vaccines finally becoming widely available, it is tempting to leave the pandemic behind and get back to “normal” life.
But public health and medical professionals say “not yet.” We need to keep our guard up just a little longer until it is clearer that we are winning the battle against coronavirus. Here are a few reasons why we still need to be cautious:
- Not enough people have been vaccinated yet. The vaccines available in the United States are safe and very good at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. But only about one out of every five Americans has been fully vaccinated so far. We need to vaccinate most of the US population to slow the spread of the virus. This will take at least a few more months, as long as everyone who is eligible for a vaccine agrees to get one.
- Most children won’t get vaccinated for a while. In most states, the COVID-19 vaccine is now available to people age 16 and over. But studies are still ongoing in children under the age of 16. They likely will not be able to get the vaccine until later in 2021 at the earliest. This means that children will continue to be at risk of getting infected, getting sick, and even transmitting the virus to other people.
- Newer variants of the coronavirus are spreading in the U.S. and elsewhere. A variant is a changed version of the original virus. Some variants are very similar to the original. Others may spread more easily or cause more severe disease. Studies suggest that the vaccines in use today are good at protecting against these variants, but scientists are still examining the data.
- States are loosening pandemic restrictions. Governors have gradually loosened restrictions in most of the 50 states. A large number of states no longer require the use of masks in public. Most states have allowed businesses to reopen, including restaurants and bars. Indoor dining is particularly risky since people remove their masks and sit close together when they eat.
- People are starting to travel again. Millions of people have begun to travel again in the U.S., especially during spring break. Many are making plans for the summer holidays. Maskless travelers who gather in large groups can spread the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) constantly revise their travel recommendations based on the most current data. Their newest guidelines state that unvaccinated people should still avoid unnecessary travel. People who are fully vaccinated can travel more safely but should still follow the public health recommendations listed below to protect themselves and others.
As the vaccine rollout continues, and scientists work on monitoring the new variants, the end of the tunnel is in sight. Let’s all do our part to slow the spread of the virus until we get there.
Learn more about the coronavirus and how to protect yourself and your family.
Read the latest COVID-19 science updates from the CDC for research on protection against repeat infection, how children contribute to spread of the virus in households, and more.